Changing Perspective Through Reduction

A few months ago, LifeEdited and TreeHugger.com founder Graham Hill published an op-ed in the New York Times concerning living with less. The entrepreneur outlined how after he earned millions selling his Internet company, he went on a spending spree. This, inevitably caused him to have more responsibilities and anxieties, because he had so many things. He looked at how to be happier, reforming his ways after going on an enlightening world tour and now lives in a small, 420 square foot apartment.

Sometimes we need our stuff, often we don't. Can reducing change our perspective?

Sometimes we need our stuff, often we don’t. Can reducing change our perspective?

In the days following, a number of members of national media organizations bashed the millionaire Hill for preaching about how middle Americans should live. Richard Kim of The Nation wrote:

“Apparently, people like to hear a lot about how they spend too much and not about how they actually spend too little on the goods that they do buy. Which is all to say that if they were truly concerned about the undeniably disproportionate amount of global resources the United States consumes, as well as the happiness of the American middle class, Hill and The New York Times would be better off lecturing Washington about pursuing fair labor practices, tougher regulations and socializing medicine and education than they would hectoring people for spending too much on stuff—which they do less of anyway.”

Business Insider wrote, “No poor person wants to be taught lessons in frugality by a millionaire,” while Gawker added:

“A millionaire does not have the standing to tell regular people that money is overrated. Graham Hill moved into a smaller apartment and sold some of his stuff. But he sure as fuck didn’t empty his bank accounts. It’s easy not to have material things when you can just buy whatever you need, whenever you need it.”

These critics were right in the sense that Hill oversimplified the issue, but they proved it by oversimplifying his argument. The truth is Hill can do this and then just buy whatever he needs when he needs it. The truth is stuff is cheaper than it used to be. The truth is Hill is a millionaire. And the truth is many of us have too much stuff.

The message of how to simplify your life is one worth thinking about. No, it probably won’t solve all your problems. No, you will still have to buy things from time to time. And, no, you don’t need that deep-fryer. 

My point is many of us constantly focus on things that we don’t necessarily need. This causes anxiety, as we want to make more money in order to afford it. So instead of ditching the job that we hate or going on that trip we want, we stay put and save for the next version of some phone. And maybe you really need that phone, but likely you don’t. Since we focus so much on these things, we get stuck. We sit around more. We can’t think of what to do next because of the fear of losing what we already have. We dream instead of do.

Maybe reducing to the point that Hill suggests isn’t possible for many of us out there, but reducing what we want and understanding why we want what we want can certainly help keep our focus on the things that really matter. And, who knows, maybe getting rid of some unused crap can help your perspective change.

The reduction may not be the answer to all your prayers, but it can clear your head so you can see the best route to obtain what you really want and need.

What are your thoughts on the reduction trend? Have you done it? What was the result?

photo by: emmajanehw
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